I have many fine roommates. I generally wish they were a little cleaner, and that I were a little cleaner too, but we have baking parties, watch Harry Potter all the time, and they introduce me to strange and glorious food I would never eat on my own. This is the nicest roommate housing I’ve ever been in, and I am generally quite please to live here with a group of Icelandic and foreign students.
With that said, I’ve begun…feeling a little angst-y around one of the crew. There are 10 of us, so I get along better with some than others, but Sævar (sigh-var) has recently become a serious hinderance. When the school year was new, parties on the floor above ours were pretty much continuous, and I found sleep absolutely impossible one evening. I took myself and a book to the common room to make tea. It was about 2:30 am, and they always wind down by 4 am, so instead of wanting to strangle everyone, I took a reading break.
There I was cozied up under the quilt made from my father’s old plaid shirts, when along came Sævar. He was…unsteady on his feet, and much more talkative than I’d ever seen him.
“Bettina!” He said. “You’re awake!”
“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep.”
“Your mission is to make me coffee!”
“Sorry, I don’t have any.”
He gave me a squinty eyed look, and pointed one wandering finger towards me. “You’re lying.”
“Bettina,” He said, very seriously. “You’re lying to me. I will die without coffee. I need you to make me coffee.”
“I’m sorry, I only drink tea at home. You’d have to ask Svandís about coffee.”
“Open your cabinet. Show me.”
“Uh, No.” I had a very firm feeling that he’d be Yoda digging through my supplies if I opened it. Thankfully, Sævar didn’t seem to remember that he could open it himself. Less luckily, he became more and more belligerent, flopping himself on the conch next to me to explain his imminent death without coffee.
Unamused, I chugged the last of my tea and folded up my quilt, anxious to spend the rest of my sleepless morning alone. Sævar, prompted by the irrationality of the truly intoxicated, threw himself onto his back on the floor, blocking the door to leave.
“Bettina! You don’t understand!” He said, slurring vowels, but hitting consonants sharply in a much heavier than usual accent. “I’m literally going to die! You’ll wake up in the morning and I’ll be dead! DEAD!”
“I’ll be sure and remind you you said that.”
“Noooooo, I’ll be dead and you’ll feel so bad. You should make me coffee.”
He wasn’t moving, and we entered a terrible cycle of repetitive conversation. He demanded coffee, then a sandwich, and then declared his undying love for me. It was a thrilling moment for everyone involved. He, prone on the floor, staring up at me with one arm outstretched while he still had basic motor control. Me, simmering with irritation, and no longer feeling any urge to humor him.
“Bettina, I love you. No really! I love you. You’re amazing, and kind. You’re not like other girls. I love you so much.”
“Thank you Sævar, but I’m confused. We’ve only spoken maybe five times ever.”
“I really love you.” He stared at me for a while, and I debated re-downloading Snapchat to get my revenge. “I want a sandwich.” He added plaintively, several minutes later. “Wait! I have bread!” He jumped up from the floor and ran to his shelf in the refrigerator.
I was in the doorway in a flash, ready to make my escape.
“Don’t go!” Said Sævar, running back to me. “Don’t go I want to talk to you! Have a sandwich with me, and some coffee. I really need coffee.” His whole face tightened as he glowered at me. “Why won’t you give me coffee, you’re so mean!”
“Goodnight, Sævar.” I shut the door in his face.
I was angry for a couple of days after that, but Sævar looked incredibly embarrassed, and ran whenever he saw me. I counted his humiliation as punishment enough and left him alone, except to open my cabinet and remind him I only drink tea at home, I don’t buy coffee. For his part, Sævar was courteous and left me alone.
However, last Friday night, I was once again reading articles for my thesis in the common room. At just past 10, in came Sævar, not swaying, but enormously chatty, and feeling devilishly alluring.
“Bettina!” He cried happily. “Here you are! Come make coffee with me, let’s drink coffee.”
“I don’t have any.”
“Whaaaaaat? No, go get your coffee.”
It began again, and I was not amused. “I don’t have coffee, and I’m actually studying right now.” It became one of those moments where I should have just given up, but I was too stubborn to admit defeat. He tried to cajole me into making coffee, and I resented his intrusion on my quiet study space.
“Did you eat yet?”
“Yes. Five hours ago.”
“No. No, you’re hungry. Let’s order pizza. What do you want on it?”
“I don’t want pizza.”
“Yes, pizza. What do you want on it?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Yes you are!” He ran to get his computer. “What kind of pizza should we get?”
“I don’t want pizza, I’m not hungry.”
He gave me a solemn look. “Bettina, why are you being so difficult?”
“Because I’m not hungry! I’m going to continue being difficult. I’m studying.” He looked very sad, and I cared not at all.
Eventually, he gave up, returning to his room with a not-very pleasant “Well, study then!” I was left in peace in the common room, free to study to my heart’s content. Unfortunately, the 40 minutes I’d spent arguing with Sævar had wound me up to the point of no return, and I fumed, surrounded by my hard won peace, unable to read another paragraph. I should have packed up and left the moment he came in, but I was too stubborn. I have no doubt Sævar went peacefully to sleep and never gave it another moments thought. I stewed all evening, unable to sleep for another two hours, and grumbled to my mother the next day over Skype.
“Well,” She said sagely. “you should have just gone to your room.”
“I shouldn’t have too!” I grumped. “I live here, and should be able to spend time in the common room without drunk people harassing me!”
Even as I said it, I realized the fatal flaw in my argument. Should and am able to, are not the same thing. I experienced that first hand last Friday night. I have every right to study in the common space, but my ability to do so peacefully isn’t always a given. The only person to suffer any angst over the evening was me. Next time, regardless of my desire to hold my ground, I think I’ll cut my losses and study in my room.